Stabilisation and further development of the bilateral approach

The bilateral approach forms the basis for a first-rate, mutually beneficial partnership between Switzerland and the EU. However, EU law continues to develop, and Switzerland, for its part, has interests that go beyond what already exists; remaining in the status quo is therefore not an option. The Federal Council is therefore committed to the stabilisation and selective expansion of the tried and tested bilateral approach.

The bilateral approach enables Switzerland to have a relationship with the EU that corresponds to its specific characteristics and is mutually beneficial. The EU and Switzerland share the same values, and the personal, economic and cultural exchange is also very intensive. The partnership between Switzerland and the EU is correspondingly close.

However, EU law continues to develop, and the EU makes its willingness to cooperate further and to expand Switzerland's participation in the internal market dependent on conditions of an institutional nature. For its part, the Federal Council wants to stabilise and selectively expand the multifaceted partnership for the benefit of both sides. Negotiations in several areas (electricity, food safety and public health) therefore began years ago.

Starting from the respective basic interests, it was possible to resume the thread of talks in 2022 and to hold exploratory talks with the European Commission until the end of October 2023. For the EU, the integrity of its internal market is important (same rules of the game for all participants); for Switzerland, a tailor-made, barrier-free access to the EU internal market and the cooperation programmes.

Continuing the bilateral approach

Based on the "package approach", the Federal Council adopted the draft mandate for negotiations with the EU in mid-December 2023. The package approach allows for the continuation of the proven bilateral approach, makes new, additional agreements possible and increases the scope for solutions.

The five existing internal market agreements (free movement of persons, air transport, land transport, technical barriers to trade and agriculture) are to be updated and two further agreements concluded in the areas of electricity and food safety. In addition, the Federal Council is seeking to conclude a cooperation agreement in the area of health and systematic participation in future EU programmes. Finally, a high-level political dialogue will serve as a steering instrument to facilitate an overview of bilateral relations on a regular basis.

Protecting Swiss interests

In return, the Federal Council is prepared to consider a steady contribution to cohesion and stability in Europe and is discussing with the EU the introduction of institutional solutions in the individual internal market agreements. This concerns in particular the dynamic adoption of EU law and the settlement of disputes. Exceptions and internal measures in wage protection and good governance in the area of the free movement of persons (migration) should make it possible to safeguard Swiss interests. Three internal market agreements – land and air transport as well as the planned electricity agreement – are to contain provisions on state aid. However, public services in Switzerland will remain guaranteed.